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Assessing Belarus’s energy sector to ensure future EU cooperation against the background of climate change mitigation

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Team leader Jean-Luc Poget (left) and Vladimir Kuzmich (right), who is expert and consultant on the EU financed project at the Hospital of Novogrudok where solar heater panels and heat pumps have been implemented for for heating and hot water.

In preparation of a large EU Facility, NIRAS experts examined Belarusian energy policy – an assignment that broadened its scope to include streamlining of CO2 emissions measures to keep partnership with the EU on track.

September 13, 2021

Energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) development are essential elements in the green transition taking place around the globe. This is not least the case in Belarus, where increased EE&RE development contributes to the country’s aim of enhancing its energy security coupled with a strategy that is increasingly focused on reducing import dependency by developing local energy sources and decreasing overall consumption. Belarus is also part of the EU4Energy Programme, an initiative focused on evidence-based policy-making for the energy sector in Belarus, which assists the government in implementing its emission reduction commitments and climate-resilient development under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Belarus ratified the Kyoto Protocol (under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s agreement (UNFCCC)) in 2005 and ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016 pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2030 compared to the 1990 level.

As part of Belarus’s path towards increased energy security and the EU’s support for this, NIRAS managed a project from February 2020 to July 2021 with the aim of preparing for the implementation of the EU Facility, ‘EU4Belarus – Resource Efficiency Facility’.

In preparation for the Facility, NIRAS’s team of three experts began an appraisal of the feasibility of proposed programmes within the current context of development of the national energy policies in Belarus. The team conducted field visits in two regions.

“We found that Belarus is performing well compared to some neighboring countries - much better than anticipated in the field of energy efficiency, district heating, technical performance, and access to biomass,” says team leader, Dr. Jean-Luc Poget. “The EU Delegation was very much involved and we had access to everything that we wanted to see – it was very interesting.”

After the field visits, the team prepared a report which, among other things, zoomed in on the scope of activities, the prospects for CO2 trade and institutional settings.

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Team leader Jean-Luc with Ludmila Kushniruk who is director of the Kindergarten N 45 in Grodna, where an energy efficiency pilot project is taking place.

Linking the project to the EU’s New Green Deal to accommodate unexpected challenges

As was the case with many projects that have taken place between 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 posed a significant challenge for project delivery – a situation that was further exacerbated by social unrest in Belarus. The project was put on hold from April to July 2021, after which Jean-Luc and the team worked at regional and local levels as well as with Belarus NGOs. They furthermore teamed up with EU finance experts who worked with the United Nations (UN) Development Programme.

However, there were challenges. Jean-Luc discovered that Belarus applies a different standard for assessing CO2 emissions than international (IPCC) standards. The team therefore chose to proceed by focusing on the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as the Paris Agreement. Belarus has ratified the latter and prepared two National Determined Contributions (NDCs), which map out all emissions of a country, sector by sector, according to a methodology developed in the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol. It was important to apply a standard of assessment that was compatible with other signatories to the Paris Agreement – not least the EU, to whom Belarus exports a high number of goods.

Bereza Wood Chip Boiler
Wood chip boiler which makes use of Belarus's vast biomass resources

Streamlined and compatible standards of assessing CO2 emissions will only become increasingly important in the future. As part of the European Green Deal, the ‘Fit for 55’ – a package of directives, regulations, and mechanisms – sets the blueprint for the EU’s response to climate and environmental-related challenges. ‘Fit for 55’ focuses on emission reductions and includes an emission trading system, called the ‘Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’, which will be implemented within the next five years. The mechanism aims to create a level playing field for EU producers subject to EU carbon pricing by ensuring every product imported into the EU has proof that the level of carbon taxes that the specific good has paid in its country is equivalent to the EU standard. Jean-Luc and the team’s proposal therefore took account of this mechanism to ensure that Belarus can produce emission and carbon pricing data streamlined with the EU’s standards.

“The carbon border adjustment mechanism will provide Belarus with the opportunity to improve its own standard, as well as energy efficiency while opening avenues for economic and financial cooperation with the EU,” says Jean-Luc.

Expertise, a long-running dedication to the region and strong collaboration led to sound implementation

Jean-Luc holds a PhD in economics and degrees in both economics and in engineering in food processing and energy. Having worked with energy in Ukraine for more than 20 years and with extensive experience from Central Europe, the Balkan region, Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia, he possesses thorough knowledge of the energy sector, including EE and renewable district heating, in the region. He also speaks Russian.

It was a matter of mutual trust; NIRAS trusted me although it was the first time I had worked with them.

Jean-Luc, project team leader

Despite his long running career as a consultant, this was Jean-Luc’s first time working with NIRAS: “It is among the best companies I have worked with. The processes are well established; everything I needed was clear and each time I had question, the answer was clarified very quickly. There was a knowledge network in NIRAS that was always ready to assist me.” He adds that NIRAS has a good reputation among freelancers: “Experts who are contacted by several bidders speak very highly of NIRAS as one of their preferred companies to work with. I agree with the appraisal: in my experience, NIRAS has in-house competencies and is involved in the substance matter of the contracts.”

The project was managed by NIRAS’s Facilities and Framework Contracts Unit, and you can read more about their work here.

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Gabriela Danes

Gabriela Danes

Tender & Project Manager

København, Denmark

+45 6034 0973